October 9, 2008

Claremont Community Services Director Says He Made a Mistake

By Wes Woods II

CLAREMONT - Community services director Scott Carroll on Tuesday night admitted responsibility for the bulldozing of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park.

"If you want to find out who's responsible for doing this, it's me," Carroll told a crowd of 35 to 40 people inside the Oak Room at the Joslyn Senior Center on Mountain Avenue.

After Carroll displayed a PowerPoint presentation about the 100- to 120-foot-wide clearing on the eastern edge of the park, audience members criticized him and the city for a lack of planning and failure to notify residents.

"It's a crime it happened," said Mary Wolverton, a Via Padova resident.

Carroll said the Los Angeles County Fire Department wanted the city to clear a path. "And you can see what the bulldozer did here," he said pointing to slides showing the damage.

The Claremont Hills Wilderness Park Vegetation Management Plan from 2003 states that only manual clearing can be done.

"Yes, we didn't read it," Carroll said on Wednesday.

The city will use hand crews in the future.

"Our No. 1 priority is to protect homes," Carroll said. "It's a balancing act, to protect homes and native habitat. It's a balance because we want to comply with the fire code and protect. There's been three fires in the last 20 years and, at the same time, you have to be sensitive to natural vegetation."

Natures Image Inc. submitted a bid of $89,896 for the project while BonTerra consulting submitted a bid of $23,940 to oversee it, Carroll said.

Carroll discussed how the hillsides would be stabilized.

To control erosion, rice straw wattles, or wrapped straw, would be installed on the hillsides.

"It's used on major, major erosion repair jobs," said Cory Gallagher, a business developer with Natures Image, about the rice straw wattles.

"When it rains, it slows down the water considerably. The faster it runs, the more it will erode."

Brushes and branches on the hillsides removed from the bulldozer would be chipped and spread around the hillside.

Plant, soil and brush debris in the gully will be redistributed along the hillside from Via Padova between 4115 Via Padova and the "S" curve.

At Palmer Canyon Creek, rice straw wattles would also be installed to control erosion into the Palmer Canyon Creek's water, but installation must comply with Best Management Practices' art mitigation measures and specifications.

Officials said they would make sure the existing vegetation and oak trees would be protected and make sure the brushes, soil and branches would not go inside the watercourse.

Also at the creek's watercourse, the plant debris, soil and brush would be pulled back and put on the bank while ensuring debris does not enter the watercourse.

The plant debris and brush will be chipped and spread along the access road, alluvial plain and hillside if a chipper is accessible.

The areas that are not accessible will be cut to less than 6- inches with saws or clippers.

Soil will also be spread over the alluvial plain, hillside and access road.

Inside the alluvial plain, brush and small branches will be chipped and spread over the area.

Tree trunks will be moved to the temporary access road's front and become a barrier for motorized vehicles.

One hundred oak seedlings will be planted with 100 protective wire cages around the seedlings.

A temporary access road leading to the alluvial plain would also be reshaped, while straw bail check damming will be used for a north access road.

Carroll said members of the community and forest service, environmental and other officials met on Sept. 15 to discuss what should happen to the damaged property.

On Sept. 18, city officials met with consultants, Carroll said.

To give notice for the meeting, letters were mailed to homes on Via Padova and Cardinal Cushing.

Via Padova residents Barbara and Gerald Friedman were worried the same situation could happen again, and said the city's 2003 vegetation management plan, which was ignored, was created in response to failed policies in the past.

Other residents said 2005 a landowner in northern Claremont made unapproved changes with a bulldozer to his hilly open space before city officials were able to stop him.

Carroll said a vote of at least 3-2 on Oct. 14 in favor of the restoration would be needed to start the project.

The restoration would be completed by Nov. 6 if started on Oct. 15, Gallagher said.

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